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New fund will support Ramsey County’s initiative to reduce non-public safety-related traffic stops.

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation will host a new fund called the Ramsey County Public Safety Fund. The primary purpose of the Fund is to support Ramsey County’s initiative to reduce non-public safety-related traffic stops. Specifically, funds raised will go to support research, activities related to the creation of needed infrastructure to remotely inform motorists of equipment violations, and financial support to help assist low-income motorists repair vehicle equipment.

These types of stops — sometimes referred to as pretextual stops — disproportionally affect Black and brown communities and undermine the trust in the work police do every day to serve and protect the public. Studies show that Black drivers in Saint Paul are nearly 4 times more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, which means long-term law enforcement practices of pulling drivers over for non-public-safety reasons have disproportionately impacted people of color and those living in under-resourced communities.

In an effort to decrease unnecessary public safety stops and build trust and safety for our community, Ramsey County is implementing a new county-wide policy on non-public-safety stops.

County Attorney John Choi is working with Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell and other police leaders in Ramsey County on a partnership to cease pulling motorists over for these minor violations, which can often turn into major and sometimes life-threatening situations, especially for people of color. In addition, this initiative seeks to address head-on the stark racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system by enacting meaningful change that has been demanded from BIPOC communities for decades.

At the Foundation, we know this is not just a Saint Paul problem or a Ramsey County problem, but one that affects all of our communities. This style of policing is endemic in law enforcement culture across the United States, fueled by a longstanding belief that it nets public safety results. However, non-public-safety stops only net contraband 2 -15% of the time.

These numbers prove that these stops are not worth the safety risk of our community or our officers. The Foundation, along with the Minnesota Council on Foundations, recently convened philanthropic leaders from across the state who support this effort.

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